- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

The food banks in the D.C. area are wrapping up one of their busiest weeks of the year, and they’ve been serving a new clientele.

“A changing face of hunger is definitely there,” said Kristin Boehne, agency relations manager for the Capital Area Food Bank. “Former donors have been coming to us for help now.”

Manna Food Center is one that “strives to eliminate hunger in Montgomery County through food distribution, education and advocacy.” During this holiday season, Manna finds itself serving even more hungry people.

“Food banks are not seeing economic recovery at all,” said Kim Damien, director of communications and development at Manna. “Our lines are longer than ever.”

Manna has a lot of new clients who are seeking help, Ms. Damien said. Families are seeking first-time assistance after losing jobs and struggling with the troubled economy. “There is a new face that is coming to the food bank,” she said.

Manna Food Center opened a new site in Rockville this fall, and the service was much needed.

“Our other site was big enough for us to distribute one million pounds of food a year, but we distribute three million pounds of food a year,” Ms. Damien said. The new building “has been wonderful for Manna, and it’s much more convenient,” she added

Manna’s main site is in Gaithersburg, and there are six other sites throughout Montgomery County. It has a long history of serving Maryland residents and has been feeding families since 1983.

According to its Web site, it has distributed more than 33 million pounds of food and served more than two million individuals since its inception.

Ms. Damien said in 2008 Manna had a 43 percent increase of people in Montgomery County seeking its help and it has had an increase again in 2009.

“Manna has twice as many people coming to them that need food,” she said. On Friday, “we set a record high: We served 321 families on that Friday alone.”

The nonprofit center distributes food year-round, so there is not a special event to give food over Thanksgiving. However, Ms. Damien said this is Manna’s busiest time of the year.

“If they need food, then we want them to come in when they’re in need,” she said.

Food for Others has been helping and feeding families in Northern Virginia for nearly 15 years, and Executive Director Roxanne Rice agrees that the increase in hungry people is troubling.

Despite being declared by Forbes magazine last year as one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, Fairfax County also has 6.7 percent of children living in poverty, according to Food for Others’ Web site.

Food for Others has 14 distribution sites and serves 40 organizations. It says it helps feed 18,000 families a week and distributes 2 million pounds of food annually.

“There was a tremendous increase in need last September,” Ms. Rice said. “I would assume it’s because of the economy. People forget about the people that find themselves in need. The people that were squeaking by now find themselves without employment. People are having a harder time.”

Capital Area Food Bank in the District serves 700 food pantries that then directly serve clients. Like many other food banks, it serves year-round.

However, for the Thanksgiving holiday it partnered with WHUR-FM radio station and Giant Foods Inc. for Food 2 Feed. They raised more than $70,000 during the event on Nov. 19.

With the money raised, Capital Area Food bank gave out 1,000 gift cards worth $50 for Thanksgiving grocery shopping to be used at Giant grocery stores.

Capital Area Food Bank is also seeing the rising trends of hunger.

“We have a referral service, the Hunger Hotline, and it’s been ringing nonstop,” Ms. Boehne said.

“We usually only have 500 calls a year,” she said. “Already in 2009 we’ve had over 2,000 calls.”

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